Our Siuslaw Chapter History

The Siuslaw Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society was formed to promote and educate people about the genus rhododendron. For many years, people from the Florence area who were interested in rhododendrons drove 75 miles to Eugene for meetings. In 1970 it was decided to form a Florence Chapter and call it "Siuslaw" after the indigenous native American tribe of the central Oregon coast. On April 7, Dr. DeVern Pinnock was elected first president with Kay Hutchison as secretary. The first meeting was a slide show of rhododendrons and azaleas by Ione Reed, a feature writer for the Eugene Register Guard. In March 1971, Agnes McCornack received the Chapter's first Bronze Medal Award, which is presented for outstanding work in the rhododendron field. Receiving this high honor since are members listed in the lower part of the sidebar to your left.

The Rhododendron Flower Show, currently held during Florence's Rhododendron Festival, originated in 1971 and was held in the Siuslaw Valley Bank. As the show outgrew its space, it was transferred to Lane Community College Skill Center, then to Oregon Pacific Bank, then the Bromley Room of the Siuslaw Public Library, and today is held at the Florence Event Center to accommodate the well over 1,000 trusses on display. Throughout the years many people and groups have donated time and materials for the Rhododendron Flower Show. Among those are the Florence Garden Club, the Eugene Rhododendron Chapter, the Siuslaw Middle School shop class that constructed display stands from plywood donated by International Paper, the Siuslaw High School typing class that published the show programs, and Bowhan Nursery that supplied the vases for the award winning flower trusses. The show signs were contributed by the Pinnock family and Bones Nursery. Today Chapter members, under the direction of an extremely active show committee, supports these activities. The Florence Business Community has donated trophies for the winning trusses since the first flower show and this tradition is graciously continuing today. What started out as a once a year flower show has grown to two shows, the Early Show in April and the Rhododendron Flower Show during the May Rhododendron Festival. Flower entries have grown from approximately 200 to well over 1,000 rhododendron flower trusses on display.
In 1998, the Siuslaw Chapter hosted the Western Regional Conference of the American Rhododendron Society. In October of 2010 we hosted the Western Regional Conference again!
Gallagher’s Park is a very important project of the chapter and has its own special page.

To encourage community awareness of the genus rhododendron the Chapter annually hosts two flower shows. It sponsors “The City of Rhododendron Contest” which honors the business or residence that best displays the use of rhododendrons in the landscape. It sponsors “Plant a Rhododendron Month” during October to encourage the community to plant rhododendrons. The Chapter initiated the “Search for the Native Macrophyllum” project, which is locating as many outstanding varieties as possible of the native rhododendron, the R. macrophyllum, along the Oregon Coast. The Chapter is taking cuttings and seeds from these plants and will plant them in Gallagher Park to help preserve these natives. It is hoped the project will be completed for the 100th Anniversary of the City of Rhododendrons celebration in 2007.
Today the Siuslaw Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society is one of the largest and most active in the Pacific Northwest. The Chapter meets the third Tuesday night of each month, September through May, and hosts Chapter potlucks in June, August, and December. Chapter meetings feature speakers on rhododendrons and rhododendron gardens, general rhododendron education, plant auctions, encouragement for gardening enthusiasts, trips to rhododendron gardens, and lots of fellowship.